Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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Those who suffer from a victim mentality, whether as a result of real events in life or not, experience a sense of being “stuck” and unable to move forward. As Goens (2017) explains, feeling like a victim can affect both work and personal life including an inability to develop close connections and relationships, preventing progress and motivation.
In this article let’s take a look at some of the major causes and effects of victim mentality, and what can be done to deal with and overcome this disorder. But first, what exactly is victim mentality?
Victim mentality is the mindset that causes someone to believe that their success and happiness depends on things outside and beyond their control. Sufferers believe that they are victims of life, and this causes a negative attitude which stifles progress. In some cases, traumatic events in childhood can cause victim mentality where the person sees him or herself trapped by past experience .
As someone who has written extensively over the years about self esteem, and has suffered from low self esteem and depression, I have written this guide to help you understand how victim mentality is connected to self esteem and how it might be overcome.
Do you Suffer from a Victim Mentality?
If you suffer from low self esteem you may have a victim mentality. Have you heard of this term before? If you have this mentality you view yourself as a victim and in pain. Some people are right to think this because they have suffered at the hands of others or life has dealt them a blow but even if you have a reason, you don’t have to feel like a victim and pity yourself – you can rise above these events and refuse to submit to them. In fact, with the right approach, the very events that led you to feel like a victim in the first place could be your greatest teacher and your greatest ally!
Here are some of the main symptoms of a victim mentality (according to Healthline.com):
- Believing bad things always happen to you and that you have no control over this.
- You blame everything and everyone but yourself for what happens to you.
- You might ignore help that others offer you because you feel there is no point.
- You feel powerless to change things for the better and you indulge in negative self talk.
- You will probably suffer from low self esteem and a lack of confidence.
- Some of the negative feelings you may have could include anger, resentment and a feeling that no one really cares about you.
- You may also feel loneliness or depression.
If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself then it may be time to get some professional help. If you think about the reasons why you feel this way you might ask yourself if you think like a victim. On the other hand, if you know someone suffering from this then please encourage them to seek guidance from a therapist or counselor.
What causes someone to have a Victim Mentality?
Have you ever asked yourself ” why does this always happen to me?”. Some people go through life asking questions like this, and wonder why all these bad things do keep happening to them. If you think like a victim, you’ll be reacting negatively and self pity is not going to help you nor is it likely to attract the help of others.
Those who have experienced real trauma in their lives can often develop a victim mentality. For example, according to Swanson (2014), women who have been raped are very likely to be attacked again. However Swanson notes that there are women who manage to develop a survivor mentality, which is a far more positive reaction to such traumatic events.
There are several causes of victim mentality:
- A violent or traumatic experience in life, commonly during childhood.
- Negative self talk.
- Being manipulated or controlled by others.
- Negative thinking.
- Copying behaviour you witnessed in childhood ( Watzpatzkowski, 2016).
- Your religious beliefs and upbringing.
Let’s take a quick look at these causes. Firstly, bad things happen to everyone, that’s just how life is. Some people act as though each setback is a major drama and create stress and pain for themselves. Why? Many reasons, you feel important when you convince yourself that you have huge problems. It satisfies the ego. It may also be a way of getting attention and sympathy from others.
Some have experienced a traumatic event in life, most often these occur during childhood. Abuse, for example, is a problem that can cause victim mentality. Cases of abuse often come from within the family, including close relatives, which can create a feeling of betrayal and trust which is difficult to recover from (Montello, 1999). Other negative feelings, such as self-blame, can create very deep and long lasting effects on the victim of abuse throughout their lives if not treated. Montello also explains how the experience of abuse can cause victims to live a life of extreme negativity or positivity. In this way, there will be no balance or normalcy in life.
Negative Self Talk
What you tell yourself is obviously going to affect your mood, behaviour and happiness so negative self talk is likely to help cause or prolong a victim mentality. If you are negative you cannot see reality and therefore your decisions will be based on wrong assumptions. More bad decisions can lead to more more pain and failure, which will encourage you to believe that you are indeed a victim. This can become a vicious circle. One way to break this cycle is to maintain good mental health with self hypnosis.
The Effect of Manipulation and Negativity from Others
Negative comments from others can cause you to become passive and open to manipulation. A negative comment or offensive behaviour from others says a lot about them, rather than you. However, if you have a negative mentality you may take what they say at face value and believe that you are again a victim. Also, their comments may justify your own negative self talk. This can lead to a strengthening of victim mentality.
The Consequences of Negative Thinking
Do you believe in fate or do you think you are responsible for your life and what happens to you? The victim feels that he or she has been treated unfairly but is trapped. There seems to be no way out. In extreme cases the victim may even start to believe that he or she is being punished and deserves to be a victim.
All these negative thoughts and feelings can become overwhelming but if a person who believes they are a victim, for whatever reason, lives life with a constant flow of negative thinking, the only solution is to seek help from a professional who can support and guide the person towards a happier and more satisfying life.
Copying Examples of Behaviour Witnessed During Childhood
It is often said that one of the most important duties of any parent is to provide healthy and positive examples for their children. The importance of this cannot be understated. A child will naturally tend to copy the examples it sees around it, especially from close family. As a parent myself, I know how hard it is to always be a positive role model for our children and we all make some mistakes, but there are parents who set poor examples and fail to teach children basic morals and values. Negative behaviour within the family can be very destructive in the lives of those who experience it.
The Effects of religious Belief
Religious beliefs, can like everything else, have a positive or negative affect on your life. If you believe in a God who is responsible for everything, and who punishes you if you do something wrong, it is easy for you to believe there is a reason for your pain and misery.
What are the effects of victim mentality?
When you see yourself as a victim you feel life hasn’t treated you fairly. You may be angry as a result blaming everybody for your misfortune. You may feel you are being punished or even deserve to be a victim. Your self esteem will be very low. You will suffer from negative thinking and might feel trapped.
Many who suffer from victim mentality just accept this as their reality and give up on changing it. This is a very negative and damaging opinion to hold of yourself and it is no doubt that self esteem and confidence will suffer. Once again, Montello puts it so well, that suffering abuse and the consequences are just like losing the self. Let’s now move on to see what can be done to reclaim the self and come to terms with the issues that caused the victim mentality in the first place.
What can you do to overcome victim mentality?
- Stop being angry or feeling helpless and understand that you are responsible for your own life. Decide to do something about it and get help from a professional if you need it. There is no need to suffer alone.
- Question your negative thoughts, don’t believe them automatically.
- Don’t accept the hurtful comments of others. Answer back calmly and refuse to accept this behaviour from others.
- Do whatever you can to be positive.
- Work on your self esteem and confidence. There are so many ideas on this website to help you.
- Stop being a victim and stand up for yourself – find out how this self hypnosis program can help you.
Questions to Ask Yourself to Help You Find Solutions
Being more positive would help, but how? One thing you need to ask yourself is: “Am I allowing situations in life or events to manage me, or am I determined to manage them as best I can?” You are not in control of everything that happens to you obviously, but you can control how you react.
If you have been abused or suffered at the hands of another, then ask yourself this:
“Am I going to allow this person to win, to have power over me throughout my life or am I going to fight back and prove what a survivor I am?” The choice is yours. Make the right decision and do get help if you don’t feel strong enough. Help and support goes a long way and can completely change your life.
Treatment that can Help You Overcome Victim Mentality
According to Montello, (1999) music therapy can be a very successful approach for those who have suffered traumatic events in childhood. It activates the inner child and reignites joy and peaceful states within. It can restore the balance between body and mind and help patients deal with emotions and feelings.
This article adds that group therapy can be very helpful to teenagers who have suffered from sexual abuse. This kind of therapy involves discussion with others with similar experiences and helps to build self esteem of abuse victims.
One to one psychotherapy with a professional can really help anyone who has victim mentality. If you cannot cope and want to find a way to ease the pain and regain a more positive life then this is the way to go.
You don’t have to be a victim, truly the only one who makes you feel like one is the same person who can free you —- you!
- Avinger, Katherine & Jones, Rebecca. (2007). Group Treatment of Sexually Abused Adolescent Girls: A Review of Outcome Studies. The American Journal of Family Therapy. 35. 315-326. 10.1080/01926180600969702.
- Goens, G. A. (2017). It’s Not My Fault: Victim Mentality and Becoming Response-able. Rowman & Littlefield.
- Healthline.com (2019). How to Identify and Deal with a Victim Mentality. https://www.healthline.com/health/victim-mentality
- Montello, L. (1999). A Psychoanalytic Music Therapy Approach to Treating Adults Traumatized as Children. Music Therapy Perspectives, Volume 17, Issue 2, Pages 74–81, https://doi.org/10.1093/mtp/17.2.74
- Swanson, Shelby N. (2014). “WOMEN AS VICTIMS OR SURVIVORS”. Electronic Theses, Projects, and Dissertations. 122. https://scholarworks.lib.csusb.edu/etd/122
- Watzpatzkowski, W. (2016). The Victim mentality – What It Is and Why You Use It. https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/victim-mentality.htm
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.